“...life is the scary part, art is the relief.”
Poetic as fuck.
Most men in LA save their suits for the red carpet - Marc Baker wears them daily. The Australian punk singer / artist / assistant to the renowned Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo) is about to be your favorite band. A couple months ago, we stumbled across a surprise live set at a random bar in DTLA and were blown away by Marc's charismatic performance. Our description of his show doesn't do it justice. One he gets a mic in his hand, he is a force of nature. It is an immersive experience. He runs through the crowds, hands out flowers, steals your drink, crawls on the floor, and swings his mic around his neck. The epitome of rockstar.
So, of course, we had to experience it again. We caught Marc’s show with AJ English and Josh Kaye at Los Globos last month and had the pleasure of chatting with him about art, fashion, performance and music.
He wears Tom Ford. He gives out roses at every show. He has an accent. He gives the Most Interesting Man a run for his money. Boys, take note.
Tell us about your background, coming from Australia, coming to the US – what drew you to LA?
OK, so to be brutally honest, I went to Art school in Australia majored in painting, finished, looked around and felt like I didn’t have much going on. I had just come out of a very bad relationship, was very heartbroken, and my brother was living in LA at the time, so he was just like “come out, and stay with me.” So I came out on a trip and loved it. I’d been to LA before and hated it, but not that time. I was running away from my problems like everyone does, and that was it. I was sold.
How did your upbringing in Australia shape your artistic tendencies? Or was that more shaped through traveling?
You know, I’ve been doing art since I was 16; I came from a pretty encouraging family, and I guess you could say I just fell into it. At first I was very scared to be truthful in my art and about what was going on in my life and how I was feeling. But once I started being truthful, it all clicked in and fell into place. I stopped running away from what I was feeling and started being honest about it.
What’s your songwriting process like?
Never-ending writing, always always always writing. I’ll be coming up with stuff as much as I can, and then take it to the studio to work with my producer. The biggest point I want to make about that is that everything that I do in life – before the writing process – is the hard part. Everything in real life and in relationships is the hardest part, that is the thing that I struggle with the most. Actually sitting there and writing and being free in those moments is ultimate. I just think life is the scary part, art is the relief.
Your live show is so energetic and immersive – what process goes into recreating the recorded songs for the live performance?
Well, I actually think I go backwards. When we’re in the studio, we always have the live show in mind. It’s always revolving around the live show. But I would say this about the live show – people come up to me all the time and say, “You’re such a performer, it’s so great how you’re performing,” but for me that is the most truthful place for me in the world. There is no performing about it to me. That’s the only place I feel I can be truthful. I feel like every other place in the world I can't be as honest. It's life and death up there - the stage is life and death. The moment you see someone who's performing and trying to be like this thing, you can tell straight away. For me when I'm in that setting, that's the moment I can talk about everything that's hurting me.
What would you say is lacking in music today, and would you say you’re creating music you wish existed?
I would say what’s lacking is difference. That’s such a hard question to ask me because I’m so opinionated, haha. But I would say that I’ve seen enough bands get up and play a song about their pet cat – there’s a place for it, and it can be great and there are some bands that I love that are like that. But I would also say, just do something different. Really think about the landscape and what’s there and what’s come before you. Think about what is different. I don’t wanna see anything I’ve seen before. That may be bad to say. I mean, I love traditional bands – Nick Cave is the best, I love all that stuff, but I just think I need something different, and that’s what I want to make.
You’re a multi-faceted artist – you’re very fashionable, you’re a musician, you’re a physical artist – is there one avenue you enjoy most? How do you combine all the different facets in your day-to-day?
I think that visual art is my big thing. Like I said, I have my BFA, I majored in painting. Painting is like breathing for me, it’s very easy – and conceptual art, that stuff is really what I find most comforting. Well, actually, I don’t think any of it’s really comforting - haha - but I think that’s the one I can sleep well about. But even the music is very visual to me. When we’re writing a record, I’m thinking about how it’s going to look – I think you’ve gotta be more than just one thing. You’ve gotta be bigger.
You’ve previously said “Casual doesn’t exist, and hopefully casual and I never officially meet.” What brands or clothes do you wear on a Sunday morning or when you’re lounging at home?
I wish I could tell you it was something very casual, but it isn’t, haha. Button-ups mostly always… If I am wearing a T shirt, god forbid, it’s because I might have to lift some furniture or something. Typically I need a color, or else I feel naked… but listen, it’s actually gotten worse here for me feeling comfortable in my own skin, because LA is such this casual, laid-back city. Whereas when I lived in Melbourne, every living day I was in a suit. And that’s just how I feel great. But here it’s different, sometimes I’ll be in chinos and a button-up or something. But I don’t like it. I feel very weird.
What’s your favorite brand?
It’s not gonna be a suit company. Santa Maria Novella – they make 19th century apothecary products - skin ointment, cologne, old Florence 1900's cologne. There's no fashion about it, it's just honesty. They're like, we've been making this since the 1900's and we have it down by now, no marketing tricks. But I do like other stuff, too. Tom Ford, Tom Brown is great too. YSL is the best ever, and Dior - I wish I could dress in all that stuff more, but it's expensive.
Outside of music you work with Mark Mothersbaugh – describe a day in that role, and how much of an influence does Mark have on your daily inspiration?
So basically I’ve been working for him for about two years now. I met him through my brothers, and he was like ‘Hey, come help me do this show.’ So we just started hanging out as friends - going to dinners, it was really, really crazy because I’ve always been such a fan of his. And then he asked me to help him work on his retrospective of his life’s work. And so of course, I said yes. So for about two years now I’ve been working on this one show, which will be a life-long retrospective of all of his art from before Devo until now. So I’ve just been helping him with that everyday. His studio in West Hollywood, he’s had since the 80’s, so we’ll just go in there everyday, work on sculptures, paintings, and we just make art. It’s really great to go in the studio, make stuff, go have lunch – and it’ll all be in the show that’s opening Oct. 30th - it's a huge show. It's been the most stressful and rewarding part of my life.
Any upcoming projects / long term goals?
The first thing is to get through this show tonight, haha – then finish Mark’s show, and then after that I go back to Australia through Christmas and I’m going to be working on a record down there. I’ll be working with an amazing producer who’s been a friend, but he’s really great and big and it’s going to change things. I’m super excited, fingers crossed.
Who did you grow up listening to and who are some bigger influences today?
I just grew up on punk music, like straight-up. I listened to a shitload of 7 Seconds, The Ramones, of course – it’s funny, I listen to The Ramones now, and they seem like the Beach Boys of my generation, haha. They’re not that heavy, but at the time they must have been so heavy… so good. So I listened to a lot of that, and then a lot of post-hard core – any show I went to as a kid I was so into. I haven’t been to a show like that in a while where I have to be in the front – the energy is different, I just miss that stuff.
What do you like to do outside of music?
What’s your beverage of choice?
Whiskey – always whiskey.
Favorite brunch spots in LA?
I’m scared of brunch – so I’ll just say lunch or dinner… You can either find me at Bottega Louie and Joan’s on Third. Love Joan’s. Oh and that place at Fred Segal – Mauro’s. Love that place – that’s as close as you’ll find me to brunch.
Bloody Mary’s or mimosas?
OHH. That’s a tough one. Let’s say mimosas. Mimosas are fucking delicious.